With David Price at the head, is the Red Sox' starting rotation good enough to a division title?
At this week's Winter Meetings in Nashville, Dave Dombrowski may tweak the rotation even more. Boston ranked 24th in the majors last season in starters' ERA. While there's a feeling Rick Porcello will be better, Clay Buchholz will stay healthy, Joe Kelly will emerge, and Eduardo Rodriguez will become a No. 1 talent, there are no guarantees.
Dombrowski has already picked up a top closer (Craig Kimbrel) and starter, as well as an effective righthanded bat (Chris Young). He can sit back and listen, see if Braves righty Shelby Miller makes sense or see if anyone comes to him for a starter, since he now has nine of them (also Wade Miley, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Steven Wright).
Then there's the pursuit of dealing away Hanley Ramirez and/or Pablo Sandoval. So yes, there are things to be done.
Here's a breakdown of what other teams may be looking for in Nashville:
Toronto — Did the Blue Jays mess up their karma by letting David Price go the rival Red Sox and letting popular GM Alex Anthopoulos leave? The Jays have replaced Price by adding free agent lefty J.A. Happ and acquiring Jesse Chavez from Oakland. Toronto is seeking a back-end reliever, which would give them flexibility with Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez. Ryan Madson had a nice comeback season with Kansas City and is high atop the Jays' list. They're also big on Darren O'Day and Joakim Soria. With Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion up for free agency after the 2016 season, Toronto's window is closing fast.
NY Yankees — Brian Cashman said he will not spend on free agents, so he may be active in trades. Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller could be the big chips if Cashman feels he needs another starting pitcher. The Angels could be a destination for Gardner given that former Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is the Angels' new GM and his team needs a lefthanded bat. The Cubs are also a potential trade partner given their need for a center fielder.
Baltimore — The Orioles have a lot riding on the Chris Davis sweepstakes. It would send a big message to Oriole Land if they were to retain the slugging first baseman. If Davis signs elsewhere, then Baltimore must go after an impact hitter. GM Dan Duquette recently traded with Seattle for power hitter Mark Trumbo, but he needs one more bat. Don't rule out the Orioles as a possible suitor for Hanley Ramirez, who was originally signed by Duquette in Boston, if the Red Sox are willing to eat enough money. They also need a starting pitcher with free agent Wei-Yin Chen unlikely to return, and are looking for setup/closer options if they can't retain O'Day. The Orioles could also move Ubaldo Jimenez.
Tampa Bay — The Rays struck early in a deal with the Mariners in which they obtained Brad Miller — a poor man's Ben Zobrist — to help invigorate the offense. The cost was starter Nathan Karns. The Rays will try to add offense as cheaply as possible. Recently nontendered players such as Pedro Alvarez and Chris Carter could fit. The Rays may try to move first baseman James Loney's $9.66 million salary. Evan Longoria? It would take a lot to get him.
Kansas City — The World Series champions have a lot of work to do. Losing free agents Johnny Cueto, Alex Gordon, Ben Zobrist, and Ryan Madson creates some challenges. They would love to keep Zobrist and Gordon and both would love to stay, but the demand for those players is off the charts, as is the money. They have targeted Jackie Bradley Jr. from the Red Sox, free agent Gerardo Parra, and the Braves' Nick Markakis (three years, $33 million remaining on his deal) as possible replacements in the outfield. They would also like a midrange-priced starter. Clay Buchholz would make perfect sense for them with a $13 million cost next season and $13.5 million team option in 2017.
Minnesota — The Twins are looking for bullpen help so they'll be players for Joakim Soria, Madson, and Darren O'Day for sure. They seem to be OK with starters, though adding a back-end type could well be within their range. The Twins could also seek an outfielder to replace Torii Hunter, though they're planning to move Miguel Sano to the outfield. They may have made their big free agent splash with Korean first baseman Byung Ho Park. GM Terry Ryan says he will not deal third baseman Trevor Plouffe, but if he brings back a mid-rotation starter, who knows?
Cleveland — The Indians need offense, especially with Michael Brantley out for an extended period after shoulder surgery, so low-cost options such as Pedro Alvarez and Chris Carter might interest them. Chris Davis would fit their needs but the Indians are unlikely to take on big money, which makes it doubtful they'll get into the Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton bidding. The Indians have pitching to trade. Much of the trade speculation has focused on Carlos Carrasco, but Danny Salazar is the starter they'd prefer to deal. The Cubs need a pitcher and seem to be a good trade partner. The Indians have shown interest in Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
Chicago White Sox — GM Rick Hahn has said he must improve the offense, and he has needs at shortstop and third base. Would he ever deal Chris Sale if the package was overwhelming and included some major league-ready bats? Would the White Sox be a fit for Pablo Sandoval? Will Reds third baseman Todd Frazier be a trade target? The White Sox could very well land one of the top free agent hitters. They could also swing a deal for an infielder (such as the Cubs' Starlin Castro or Javier Baez) if they're willing to part with a pitcher, perhaps Jose Quintana. Outfielder Avisail Garcia could also be moved.
Detroit — GM Al Avila has been as aggressive as his former boss, Dave Dombrowski, in adding free agent pitchers Jordan Zimmermann, Francisco Rodriguez, and Mike Pelfrey. While they acquired Cameron Maybin to help their outfield mix, they could add another power bat. A Cespedes return should not be ruled out.
Texas — The Rangers get ace Yu Darvish back from Tommy John surgery. They could dabble in the free agent market for a starter or try to retain Yovani Gallardo and/or Colby Lewis, who pitched very well for them. The Rangers could add another power bat at first base or left field and may weigh in on Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton.
Houston — The Astros are in one of the better positions for the Winter Meetings. They have the resources to pick off a mid-rotation starter (which could mean bringing back Scott Kazmir). They could pursue a much-needed leader such as Alex Gordon. They have the organizational depth to acquire a big-time closer such Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, or Mark Melancon. The Astros have been eyeing Rays relievers Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee as well. Houston may upgrade its catching, with non-tendered Tyler Flowers a possibility.
LA Angels — The Angels need a lefthanded bat to balance out their lineup, as well as help at second, shortstop, and third. Jason Heyward and Gordon are possibilities. If the Angels thought Hanley Ramirez could play third, they might make a play for him, perhaps Pablo Sandoval or Todd Frazier as well. Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker could be a trade option. Former Angel Howie Kenrdick and Daniel Murphy could be free agent targets for the infield.
Seattle — New GM Jerry Dipoto hasn't been shy about filling needs. He's already made two trades (adding Nathan Karns, dumping Mark Trumbo) and signed outfielder Nori Aoki to a one-year deal. Dipoto may try to add pitching depth, and he needs a first baseman. Mike Napoli is a possibility. Can we push Ramirez on him?
Oakland — Well, Billy Beane hasn't done anything as dramatic as dealing Josh Donaldson to Toronto, at least not yet. He's been adamant that he's not interested in dealing premier righty Sonny Gray. But Beane has dismissed such things before and then made a significant trade. Fact is, everyone has a price, and you can bet Theo Epstein, who has the hitters and talent to spare, has at least made his attempt or is about to. The Red Sox, Astros, and Twins also have the young players to pull off a deal for Gray. We'll see if Beane resists the temptation.
NY Mets — The NL champs are seeking offense with Daniel Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes unlikely to return. Ben Zobrist has been a target, but he's receiving extensive interest. The Mets have pitching, but the front office claims it won't trade anyone in the rotation. Jonathon Niese (the Dodgers once had interest) could be available in a deal, but may not yield the desired return. There's always the possibility the Mets find some money and sign an outfielder such as Justin Upton or Alex Gordon.
Washington — The Nationals, who signed lefthanded reliever Oliver Perez, were closing in on a deal for setup man Darren O'Day, but still had their eyes on Aroldis Chapman, an indication they could try to move Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen. They've already lost Jordan Zimmermann (and likely Doug Fister), so they could seek another starting pitcher in free agency. They are one of the many teams intrigued by Zobrist. They also seem to be willing to listen on lefty Gio Gonzalez.
Miami — With a new manager (Don Mattingly) and a new hitting coach (Barry Bonds), the Marlins are trying to figure out what they want to be — a contender or a rebuilding project. They have listened to offers for Marcell Ozuna, hoping to get a young, controllable pitcher (such as Lance McCullers from Houston). They'd like to add to their bullpen and rotation. They've received a lot of calls on lefty reliever Mike Dunn.
Atlanta — The Braves have some attractive pieces in starters Julio Teheran and Shelby Miller. Nick Markakis could also be had at the right price. The Braves are still building toward 2017 when their new park opens, and they are trying to stockpile power arms. They need low-cost offense. If the Cubs want Miller, they'll have to give up Jorge Soler.
Philadelphia — The Phillies are in full sell mode, but getting rid of Ryan Howard is hard, even with just one year and $25 million remaining on his contract, plus a $10 million buyout of his 2017 option. Teams are trying to pry young closer Ken Giles from GM Matt Klentak.
St. Louis — They failed to land David Price, so the Cardinals are still seeking a prime-time starting pitcher, maybe two. They may shift their attention to second-tier guys such as Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, or even Johnny Cueto with all his medical red flags. The Cardinals have discussed Chris Davis for first base. It appears they will not try to re-sign Jason Heyward.
Pittsburgh — The Pirates non-tendered Pedro Alvarez, and may be looking to move Neil Walker and Mark Melancon as both approach free agency after the 2016 season. The Pirates could use some power at first base (Milwaukee's Adam Lind?) so watch for some action on the trade front. They must come up with a starting pitcher and a back-end bullpen piece. They have been linked to reclamation project Justin Masterson.
Chicago Cubs — The Cubs lost out on Price and never got into the Zack Greinke hunt, so they settled on John Lackey at two years, $34 million. Don't expect Theo Epstein to call it a day. He has the young offensive chips to trade for pitching. The Indians could be a trade partner for Carlos Carrasco. The Padres (Tyson Ross) and Braves (Shelby Miller) could also be possible trade partners. Epstein will resist parting with Jorge Soler, but that's who the Braves want for Miller.
Milwaukee — The Brewers are going younger so they may try to sell off Lind, who could fit on a lot of teams (including Seattle and Pittsburgh). They could dangle catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but would have to receive a significant return of young players. New GM David Stearns could turn to his former team, the Astros, on Lucroy. Veteran righty Matt Garza, who had a terrible season, could also be moved.
Cincinnati — The Reds seem to be open to anything. Aroldis Chapman would bring a huge haul. Todd Frazier (Angels, Indians?) and outfielder Jay Bruce (Mets?) could also be moved. Frazier is a Cincinnati favorite, so the return would have to be impressive.
LA Dodgers — Losing Zack Greinke was big. They could sign or trade for two starting pitchers, a bullpen piece, and a second baseman (perhaps Neil Walker or free agents Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, or Ian Desmond, who could shift from shortstop). They have dead weight in Carl Crawford, need to move on from Andre Ethier, and get Yasiel Puig back to planet Earth. Signing Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist makes perfect sense.
San Francisco — After losing out on Greinke, the Giants turned to Jeff Samardzija (five years, $90 million) to go along with Madison Bumgarner. They could also use some pop in their lineup, so Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Alex Gordon all make sense.
Arizona — The Diamondbacks aggressively bid $120 million on Cueto, but the baseball world was stunned when they landed Greinke for six years at $206.5 million. They are now for real and could be the surprise team in the NL. And they may not be done. They are also courting free agent Mike Leake and may bid on Kenta Maeda, who was posted in Japan.
San Diego — The Padres kept adding last offseason. They're selling this offseason. Their best move may be signing broadcaster Don Orsillo. They've already shipped off Craig Kimbrel and first baseman Yonder Alonso. Now they're making James Shields (Giants?) available, and Tyson Ross, Matt Kemp, and Andrew Cashner could be had, too.
Colorado — In a hitter's park, you need offense, but don't be surprised if Carlos Gonzalez is traded. The talented outfielder could bring in a haul. The Rockies are seeking starting pitching, and the Padres' Ian Kennedy could be a target.
All hail the king
Mike Hessman never had the big league success he wanted but he retired last week still having left his mark on the game. The 37-year-old California native, who played every position on the diamond during his 20 professional seasons, steps away as the US minor league home run leader. He hit his 433d in August, one more than Buzz Arlett. Mexican League slugger Hector Espino has the all-time minor league homer record with 484. Hessman's career at a glance: